Don't Touch the Shepherds!
I can imagine a watchful parent saying this to children in Jesus' day when the Shepherds came into town looking for the baby born in a manger. Shepherds were a dirty lot. They hung out with sheep, slept in caves, sat by campfires and were generally poor, dirty and unkempt. Shepherding was not a desirable, good paying job so this group included vagabonds, liars and cheats. YET God in his infinite wisdom chose this group to be his heralds and witnesses when he sent his only son to be born into the world! There is a huge lesson here for all of us. God came to the lowest of the low and appointed them to tell the best news in the world. So, that means God will come to us regardless of our baggage and past sins. This means when God does reveal himself to us, he EXPECTS us to go and tell everyone about the experience. The shepherds were uneducated, oppressed and unpopular. Thankfully this did not stop them from telling about the babe in the manger and how God came to them. So nothing should or can prevent us from telling how God has blessed and transformed us. The world needs to hear this and is craving such GOOD NEWS!
Recently our church was asked to adopt poor families for Christmas. 76 families, a relatively small number, were adopted by our very large congregation. Most people chose to give money which will be used to bless many families. I wonder if people did this to avoid having to touch, smell and be exposed to the likes of modern-day shepherds? It is easier and less risky to just send a check and not have to get to know personally the suffering, poor and troubled people in our community.
I think that charity surrounding Christ's birth should involve more than just making us feel the "Christmas spirit." Charity based in God's transforming love embraces our neighbor. I hope and pray that people will choose to come alongside the poor and hurting in our community - to walk with them into a new year and share with them the good news of faith through words and actions. We can walk with a family as they exit poverty and constant suffering. It requires the unconditional love of a follower of Jesus to empower them and help them stand in this difficult economic time. Like the angels said, "Don't be afraid!" Love your hurting neighbors - come alongside them and spread God's GLORY in our community. Don't take the safe route, take the Jesus route, right into the hearts of the hurting and needy among us.